IDOL TALK: The Bestselling New York Times Author You Never Heard Of

Suppose you had seven New York Times bestselling novels under your belt and still nobody knew your name. Can’t happen, you say?

But it did.

If you’re in the know in Hollywood, then you’ll recognize the name of Tom Straw, a veteran writer of numerous television comedies from “Night Court” to the “Cosby Show.” But I’ll bet you didn’t know about his seven New York Times bestsellers. And it’s not like he was hanging out at the bottom of the list. He actually hit number one.

So, where has Tom been all your literary life?

It just so happens that he wrote under the pseudonym of Richard Castle. Ring a familiar bell? Rick Castle (BTW, a great first name), is the fictitious novelist in the long-running television detective series “Castle.” The show ran for seven seasons and starred Nathan Fillion as Castle and Stana Katic as his romantic interest, New York City Police Detective Kate Becket.

In the series, Castle was a crime novelist seeking his muse. So he wrangled a via New York’s mayor to shadow Beckett while she investigated crimes. While working with her, he created his “Nikki Heat” character for his novel series based on his experiences with Detective Beckett. Of course, this is a television show so there is no real book series.

But then…

Then, the show’s Executive Producer Andrew W. Marlowe approached Straw about actually writing the novels as a tie-in to the television show. He wrote seven novels during seven seasons “Castle” ran on the air and every one of them became a New York Times bestseller. So there you go. Tom Straw, aka Richard Castle, the most successful bestselling author you never heard of—until now.

Lee Child Retires

Probably the most successful thriller writer in the genre, Lee Child, has retired and has passed on his Jack Reacher series to his younger brother, Andrew Grant. Want the details on the transition? Click here for my story in the Big Thrill magazine about the passing of the biggest baton in all of thrillerdom. And if you’d like to know more about Lee Child’s beginnings, click here for a story that will appear as a chapter in my anthology about successful novelists’ beginnings.

My Neighbor Randy Wayne White

Decades ago when the The New Yorker reached Floridian Randy Wayne White to pen a piece on the Everglades, he turned down the offer. The Outside magazine columnist and fishing guide was in a foul mood. It was the height of the fishing season and he had enough work on his plate. Besides, he said at the time, what else can be written about Florida’s endangered swamp land that hasn’t already been written?

He wasn’t trying to play hard to get, but it didn’t seem to hurt at all. White heard from his buddies in New York literary circles that the editor he turned down was telling others chumming for talent that Randy was a big catch. “Randy White’s pretty good, if you can get him,” she told people. When the supply is limited, the demand usually goes up.

Randy went on to write dozens of novels, many NYT bestsellers. His most famous novels are part of his “Doc Ford” series about the adventures of marine biologist Doc Ford. Keep an eye on Crimereads.com later this month for my story about Randy. We met at his restaurant, Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill on Sanibel Island, not far from my Florida condo, and we had a long chat about his beginnings, and book and magazine publishing.

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